Saturday, April 30, 2011

Begin Here

"The thing that is in danger is the whole structure of society, and it is necessary to persuade thinking men and women of the vital and intimate connection between the structure of society and the theological doctrines of Christianity."
                                                Dorothy L. Sayers, "Creed or Chaos?"

"But what is a practical joke in a world
Of nonsense, what is a rational attitude
Towards politics in a world of ciphers . . .?"
                                                Louis MacNeice, "The Blasphemies"

            We are not born civilized. 
            We acquire civility, if at all, only later.  The truest and best way to acquire civility is under the guidance of a wise moral order, and under the nurture of a well-functioning traditional family.  While other paths to civility are possible and sometimes work, the happy combination of family and wise moral authority is the most dependable way to gain access to the hard-won wisdom of our ancestors, wisdom gained slowly and painfully over the centuries in the crucible of real life and in the light of revelation.
            In other words, because we human beings are not born civilized, we are always only one generation from barbarism. We must domesticate each new generation, just as we were domesticated in our turn.  To convert the brutes we all are born into the civilized persons we ought to be requires nothing less than the wisdom of God.  Barbarism is not behind us; it is within us, and it is persistent.  Our demons die hard, if at all.  If they are to die, God must kill them.  Government cannot.  The deepest and most profound human ills have no political solution.  To think and act as if they do is foolish.  How much time, effort, and treasure we have wasted trying to do by means of government what can never be done is far, quite far, beyond calculation.
            Faced with the perennial challenge of civilizing the next generation, and fully aware that in order to civilize it they must begin with God, Christian conservatives turn first to revelation, to the works and words God Himself, works and words graciously bestowed upon this fallen and twisted world, a world utterly lost and never to be found without them.  Thus, while Christian conservatives might value the good, the true, and the beautiful, they know that without God we can never find them or preserve them.  Indeed, without God we could not even convincingly define them.  While Christian conservatives set about conserving things like justice, the traditional family, and even civilization itself -- things always at risk and under siege -- they know that the best defense of them is the revelation of God, by which, and only by which, can things be seen and done aright.  I am not saying that we cannot begin without God.  I am saying that we cannot begin well without God.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Labor Union Folklore

I leave it to the labor unions to tell you about their virtues and their successes.  They are quite willing and able to do so.  I take it as my task simply to tell you about their weaknesses and shortcomings.  In this case, I want to tell you about union folklore.  I want to tell you about some of the things people think are true concerning unions but are not.

Let’s Play Monopoly
First, labor folklore suppresses the monopolistic tendencies and intentions of the unions themselves.  Unions intend to monopolize the work supply the corporation needs to purchase in order to produce its merchandise.  Unions want to eliminate the competition among prospective workers.  They want to be sure that a union shop hires only union workers, that the shop has no freedom to hire others.  If there’s competition among prospective workers, then the workers have to bid against each other in order to offer their services at the best price for the corporation.  In order to keep their wages artificially high, unions aim to eliminate competition.  They do it in many ways, some moral and legal, some not.
The most common way to keep others from competing for jobs is to pay large sums of money to elect legislators who will pass laws that eliminate worker competition.  Unions want a shop closed to worker competition, a shop wherein the union monopolizes the work supply -- which the elected legislators provide by passing laws toward that end.  It’s a special interest system from Hell:  What the unions want, the politicians provide; what the politicians want, the unions provide -- all others be damned.  Unions strive after, and frequently attain, job sovereignty.  They enclose the labor pool; they assert union fraternity over employer and competitive worker liberty.  In effect, they place “No trespassing" signs in front of the hiring office.  By doing so, unions stage an invasion on managerial prerogatives, by demanding control, or veto, over hiring and firing.
Collective bargaining is not an instrument of liberty, but of control.  Unions wield it precisely in order to restrain trade, namely the trading of money for work and of work for money that occurs freely between company and employees -- absent third party intervention or coercion.  Unions try very hard to prevent companies from dealing directly with free employees and free employees from dealing directly with companies, which is why so much relevant discussion has centered around whether or not antitrust law (law designed to preserve competition) ought to be applied to labor unions.  When unions apply pressure across an industry to drive up their income, unions call it collective bargaining.  When businesses do it, unions call it price fixing.
Perhaps a commonly employed analogy will serve:  Imagine that a homeowner, John, and a prospective buyer, Sam, were negotiating over the purchase of John’s home.  Imagine that Sam were invested with the bargaining privileges now enjoyed by labor unions.  In such a case, Sam would be able to deprive John of all other purchase offers.  Sam would be able to physically isolate John’s home and thereby to cut it of from all deliveries of any sort, even food, as well as to prevent personal movement into and out of John’s home so that, even if John were, say, an ambulance driver, he could not ply his trade or make his living.  Sam could impose at will a virtual boycott, or embargo, of John’s business, even if John did not work at home.  Were you or I to exert such coercive pressures on John, it would be called criminal.  When unions exert them, it’s called collective bargaining.  

Second, despite their monopolistic practices, unions want you to think of them as the victims, not the victimizers.  When non-union forces try to re-assert their liberty, unions portray that re-assertion as fascist tyranny.  Unions want you to forget that just as collective bargaining is a legally protected activity, so also is opposing it.
Unions are not victims.  On the whole, organized labor stands quite well up in the rankings of worker wages and benefits, both here and around the world.  Nevertheless, the perception remains that union workers are downtrodden and oppressed.  This mistaken notion of victimization is not simply a matter of cultural lag or of perceptions not keeping pace with reality, but of propaganda.  Unions purposely portray themselves as the stoop-shouldered cannon fodder of capitalist emperors battling each other over filthy lucre.
The picture is false.  Unions work for consumers.  Unions work for you.  Consumers -- mothers, store clerks, assembly workers, farmers, and dental assistants, not greedy capitalist emperors -- determine who gets and who keeps a job.  They do so with their dollars.  If a product’s price is too high, or if its quality is too low relative to that price, consumers send their money elsewhere.  When they do, they fire not only management, but union workers as well.  The consumer’s dollars, not the owner’s greedy desires, are the rising tide that floats the corporate boat, or else their absence is the torpedo that sinks it to the bottom of the financial sea.
Unions want you to think that they are victims of greedy capitalists when in reality they are simply unable to compete successfully for consumer dollars in the marketplace.  They do not present their failure in this regard as their failure, but as their victimization at the hands of others.
Union folklore says that others are greedy, not union members.  As everyone knows who thinks about it even for a moment, human nature and its manifold weaknesses is fully represented on both sides of the bargaining table.

We are the world
Third, labor folklore asserts that what’s good for unions is good for America.  It’s an old myth, and widely employed by many groups for their own advancement, whether by farmers, retailers, wholesalers, or public servants, that whatever is good for them is good for the nation.  In other words, unions are not the first or the only small group to assert that their interests are identical with the interests of the country.
This myopic self-centeredness  ignores the basic reality that if money is allocated in one direction it cannot be allocated in another at the same time.  When one sector gets a larger share in the consumers’ allocation of money, another sector gets less.  But the whole country is not thereby either diminished or enlarged.  When group A prospers at the expense of group B, the nation is not thereby either richer or poorer.  The gains (and losses) are relative:  They are relative to other groups in the economic equation.  The nation isn’t financially enlarged, just one portion of it.  What one sector gained, others paid.  The benefit is unidirectional, not universal.  What’s described as better off for the nation is simply reallocation.  Reallocation within the system is not the same as increasing the system.  The pie is not magically bigger, just cut up in different proportions.  That’s not good for the country, just good for one sector.  I’m not saying that economics is inescapably a zero sum game; I’m saying that mere reallocation is.
Indeed, one might argue that, because no industry is truly isolated from all others and therefore is impacted by what happens in them, when other companies consent to raise wages because of union pressure, they must also raise their prices in order to absorb the additional labor costs.  That means that the corporations and consumers who wish to purchase that company’s products must pay more, raising everyone else’s costs accordingly, thus making them worse off than before.  Those who are now worse off believe that they must demand more, which raises the price of their products, and drives the cost of living higher in ever-rising circles of upward pressure.  In this way, what’s good for unions is bad for everyone else, despite union folklore to the contrary.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fieger, Foolishness, and Families

           Jeffrey Fieger thinks that Detroit’s problems are financial at the root and that they’ll be solved by money.  He thinks that the way to get money is through legalized prostitution, legalized drugs, and legalized gambling. 
He doesn’t know that a city’s liveability is determined by the moral fiber of its citizens and by the civic wisdom of its leaders, not by cash.  If you give money to a fool, to an addict, or to a profligate, the money disappears in an instant.  Fieger’s plan is a magnet for fools, not for families.  He doesn’t know that, because most of our problems are rooted in human nature, most of the challenges that confront us simply have no political solution.  Politics won’t fix human nature, though politics can undermine it.  If you want to undermine human nature and exacerbate our problems, Jeffrey Fieger is just the man for the job.
Fieger is the man best suited to produce further social destruction in Detroit because he does not know what we’ve known for centuries and centuries since the days of Aristotle’s Politics:  The fundamental building block of a society is the traditional family, not the whorehouse, the drug den, or the casino.  Whatever aids, supports, or defends the traditional family also aids, supports and defends society.  What does not, undermines it.  If a society is undermined long enough or fully enough, it collapses.  We are witnessing that ugly and disturbing slow-motion collapse daily in Detroit, and have been since the 1960s, when the government tried to make it a “model city.”
Nearly 50 years of uninterrupted Democratic rule and ill-conceived governmental machinations in Detroit have not produced a model city.   Quite the contrary:  It produced urban blight on the grandest scale the nation, maybe even the world, has ever seen.  But no matter how disastrous their policies, the Detroit blighters keep getting re-elected.  Fieger’s misbegotten policies are just the latest in a long series of foolish notions that unravel the very fabric of the community, namely the traditional family.  What does not build families does not build cities.  What injures the one injures the other.  If you're looking to vice to find civic redemption, you will look forever.  
Fieger has forgotten, if he ever knew, that we are always one generation from barbarism.  He’s forgotten that we are not born civilized, but must acquire civility some time later, if at all.  He’s forgotten that civility is best acquired in a traditional home and in a church, and not from the slot machines, drug dealers and prostitutes he currently pimps.  They are the breeding ground of moral and financial servitude; they are the enemy of the families and churches that alone will save us -- not the garden of freedom, prosperity, and productivity, or of the personal virtues from which they spring.
Gambling, prostitution, and drugs will not fix Detroit’s problems.  But they will make those problems worse, much worse, something Jeffrey Fieger’s shrunken imagination and under-informed proposals cannot fathom.  He says he can fix what’s wrong with Detroit “in five minutes.”  He thinks Detroit can’t get any worse.  He’s wrong on both counts, completely wrong.   It’s an ignorance and arrogance that makes the blood run cold -- and in the streets.  Violence, not peace, is the historic companion of vice.
Because you can’t build families on gambling, whoring and drugs, Fieger’s proposal is a frontal assault on families.  It is, therefore, a frontal assault on Detroit, or what remains of it, now that businesses and families have fled, and now that home after home, on block after block, in neighborhood after neighborhood have been reduced to empty, uninhabitable shells, where crime is prolific and where schools and education have fallen into nearly unfixable disarray and disrepair.  Some parts of the city could not be worse off if the city leaders had tried for years to turn them into a real-life stage-set for the next epic movie about the apocalypse, of which Fieger’s most recent public policy death wish is the latest embodiment.
It’s not the first time Jeffrey Fieger has been associated with killing off the sick and dying.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

National Security and Partisan Politics

Islam's more consistent followers have declared war on all of American society, and therefore consider all members of our society fair game.  They kill children because children grow up to be soldiers.  They kill young women because young women give birth to more soldiers.  They kill workers because workers pay taxes that feed the military machine that resists the global imposition of sharia.  No one is safe because, to them, no one is innocent.
When I say “Islam's more consistent followers,” and not “Islamic extremists” attack us, I am saying, contrary to former President Bush, that Islam is not a religion of peace, either in its sacred texts or in its history.  It is a religion at war, and continually so, for centuries upon centuries. Violence is not an aberration. Violence is the modus operandi.  If Islam were a religion of peace, you’d hear those that now pose as Islamic moderates denouncing violence.  You’d hear that outcry arising from Islamic strongholds around the world.
Have I missed it?  
Perhaps it's a defect in me, but my mind runs habitually to the worst case scenario: dirty bombs, deadly chemicals, and poisonous biological agents all smuggled over American borders, both from the north and the south -- coupled with an American regime intent upon not protecting those borders and suing at law any state audacious enough to want to do so.  In other words, the worst case looks very much like today, when about one in ten of the illegal immigrants who invade our nation in that way is of middle-eastern (and presumably Islamic) background.
I read long ago that, given the desperately fallen character of our world, if you are not protected against the worst-case scenario, you are not protected.  The worst case sometimes happens.  If you are not protected against it, then your peace and security depend upon the good will of your enemy.  In that case, you have no peace and security.  The only real peace is a defendable peace, and ours, at the moment, is not properly defended.  To defend it now requires more -- much, much more -- than we have ever done before, both here and around the world.
The Obama administration is not up to the task, and never will be.  Despite this administration's declared aversion to fighting, it has us embroiled in three wars simultaneously.  Nevertheless, in the face of those three wars, and in the face of the global threat to which those three wars testify, our borders remain foolishly and recklessly under-protected.  That colossal stupidity might seem inexplicable, but it is not.
Try this thought experiment:  If ever you want to understand otherwise inexplicable public policy measures, you must ask yourself “Who benefits?”  On that count, if you wonder why the Obama administration does not close the borders, the answer lies in the preservation of partisan power.  In order to keep themselves more readily electable, Democrats maintain a porous border because they know that the great majority of those who cross our borders illegally, if and when they vote (whether in accordance with the law or not) can be expected to vote Democratic.
Just as FDR tried to stack the courts, Obama tries to stack the voter registration rolls.  Perhaps it’s a tactic he learned in Chicago, a city famous for that ploy, a city run now by his old crony Rahm Emanuel.
Naturally, if you call them on it, the Democrats won’t admit to such crass and craven partisan self-interest.  Rather, they transform your concern for the Constitution and for national security into racism.  They twist your commitment to civil defense and the rule of law into xenophobia.
Our deadliest enemies are glad for it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

How to Think about Unions

Labor unions don't go on strike against companies or against management.  They go on strike against you.
         Like all wise consumers, you probably want to get as much value for your money as you can.  You want quality products at a good price.  Your greatest ally in this pursuit is marketplace competition.  To compete successfully for your dollar, producers must compete with each other either to increase the quality of their goods and services or else to lower the price of the goods and services they already provide.  Either way, you win:  better products or better prices.  Sometimes you might even get both at once.
         But not if unions have their way.  When unions go on strike, their intention is for their members to get more -- more money, more benefits, more security, or more time off.  The inevitable result is higher prices and (therefore) less competitiveness, at least for the company that gives the union what it wants.  Unions never go on strike in order to do more work for less money.  When unions succeed in providing more for their members, production costs increase.  Whenever unions win, their product becomes less competitive and their company more vulnerable.  When unions win, the price of the product they provide goes up.  That means you lose.  You get less product for the same money, or the same product for more money.
         Faced with that prospect, you do what any wise consumer does.  You go elsewhere.  You hunt for the products of other companies, products whose prices are more competitive.  Whenever you are forced by a product’s now higher price or now lower quality to go elsewhere, the members of the union whose tactics drove you to the competitor's product are forced to go elsewhere also.  They go to the unemployment office.
         Joblessness is the high price union members sometimes pay when they forget that all workers work for you, the consumer, and not for management.  Managers aren't the real bosses, and they’re not the real employers.  You are.  Consumers decide who works and who does not.  Consumers decide who gets paid and how much.  Consumers -- and only consumers -- pay the wages.  By selecting one product over another, consumers keep companies alive; or consumers close them down.  Thus, when a union strikes, it strikes against consumers; it strikes against you.  You pay the wages, not management.  If unions get more money, they get it from you, or they do not get it at all.  In that respect, union job actions are job actions against neighbors and friends, who are the real employers.  And when unions get their way, when they get more money and benefits for their members, consumers respond accordingly.  They go elsewhere.
         More often than not, companies don't break unions, unions break companies.  Unions often do the same to government budgets.
         We work in a global marketplace.  Because of recent technological and transportational advances, a company's money, data and products can be moved all over the globe, sometimes at the speed of light.  Transfers, sales, and transactions of all sorts occur at incredibly high speed over remarkably great distances.  Technology now permits the complex and instantaneous integration of material, consumers, management, and labor around the world. 
         As a result, no longer can there be any truly effective barriers to enormous amounts of foreign competition.  No protectionist laws, for example, can prevent the transfer of information, or of electronically transmitted goods and services.  Like it or not, American workers and companies must now compete head-to-head with workers and companies everywhere on the globe.  It cannot be avoided.  American companies and American workers must compete with their counterparts around the world because American consumers like you can now shop globally.  As a result, the more international a company's competition, product, and market, the more injury unions can do.
         When American unions win, so do foreign workers.  Count on it, foreign workers everywhere desperately want American unions to thrive.  They want American workers to get higher and higher wages, more and more days off, and greater and greater retirement compensation.  They want the price of American products to continue climbing.    Nothing brings greater confidence and enthusiasm to foreign workers than the news that some American union has been able to wrench ever larger concessions out of an American enterprise.  That news means that American products have gotten more expensive and that American consumers will be shopping around.  It means that American workers and companies are one step closer to extinction.
         In that light, the best thing that could happen to American workers today is to have American unions organize foreign workers and leave American workers alone.  Send the unions overseas.  If you're an American worker, pray for the success of Japanese, Mexican, and South Korean unions.  They're praying for you.  
         Meanwhile, remember that when unions seek more members, they aren't doing so because union organizers are just a bunch of nice guys who want to help people.  They're out to make a buck.  Unions want more dues.  If the unions weren't making a pretty profit from their members’ dues, they'd quit.